Before diving too deep in your efforts to start a WordPress meetup, you should look around and make sure there’s not already a WordPress group meeting in your area.
- Search on Meetup.com to see what groups are in your area.
- Not every group is using Meetup.com, so you’ll need to explore further. Check out Google. Search for things like “WordPress meetup,” “WordPress user group,” “WordPress event” along with your city or area.
- Search for other WordPress events in your area. If there’s a WordCamp in your area, you can bet there’s already a meetup organized.
- Ask around. Find other tech events and see if they know of a WordPress group. Ask your local WordPress friends if they’ve heard of a local group.
It’s usually better to join forces than have two competing groups, so do your homework first and make sure you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Hosting a Planning Meeting
There are a lot of questions you need to answer when you’re starting a meetup group. Who? What? When? Where? It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
A good first step is to gather a few people interested in a meetup and start answering these questions. This can be the beginning of your organizing team. You could do this online, but it might be more engaging and, well, fun to get together in person.
There are two main ways to go about this initial meeting. Either one can work and it depends on your situation.
Small & Personal
One way to get started is to gather a few friends and talk about what you want to do. Maybe send an email to a bunch of people who use WordPress and see what happens. Maybe you already have a small group that’s interested. However it works, you keep it personal and you don’t make a big public splash.
The benefit here is that you can make it quick and dirty. It’s a brainstorming meeting to get things started. You don’t need to pick the perfect venue or worry about a logo or if you’re going to use Meetup.com or what. You just gather a few friends and start talking about what this meetup will look like.
While this is a good way to get started quickly, it’s not a good way to include new people—which is kind of the whole point. So while you may make some decisions and some good progress, keep an open mind. When you have your first gathering open to the general public, be sure to get their input and incorporate it. You might find that the wider public wants something different than your little group, and that’s OK. You just have to roll with it.
So with a small and personal first meeting you can get going quickly—just a couple friends at the bar can get things rolling—but you need to shift on the fly as you make the group official and open to the public.
Big & Public
The other way to go is to throw your first meeting open to the public. Invite whoever wants to come. Throw up an event on Meetup.com or EventBrite. Announce it on Twitter, Facebook your blog and spread the word far and wide.
Going big and public is good because you can bring in the community right from the start. You’ll quickly see if you’ve got a ton of developers or a ton of newbies. You won’t have to shift on the fly because you’re getting everyone’s input right from the start.
The downside is that it’s a lot more work. By making your first meeting open to the public you have to do a lot of the groundwork yourself. Where are you going to meet? That depends on how many people show up. And when your first getting started you may have no idea. You could be a handful of people at a corner table in a coffee shop. Or you could be a dozen or more and need your own room. If you use something like Meetup.com or EventBrite, you might find yourself using technology that isn’t ideal and need to switch later. And since you’re inviting the public you need to be, well, inviting. You should have signs directing people and sign up sheets and all the rest. You need to do a fair amount of organizational legwork before you even get started.
A few questions to ask
A good early tip is to survey your group and get some answers on all these questions. You may have consensus at your first meeting, but you may not. You might see three or four good ideas rise to the top and still need to narrow things down.
- When do you want to meet? Give a few options, don’t leave it wide open.
- Where should we meet? It might help to find out where people are coming from as well as where they’re willing to meet. Some people might be more willing to drive than others. Get a sense for how important is it to have a centrally located venue.
- What kind of meetup are you going to have? While speakers and presentations are pretty popular, that’s not the only way to do it.
- Who’s willing to speak? Any time you can, ask for volunteers to present.
After the Meeting
Discussion at your first meeting may or may not answer all your questions. A post-meeting survey can be a good way to get a vote and see where everybody is at.
Getting input from the group is important, but remember that the group can’t make all the decisions. Get their input and let it guide you, but ultimately you’re running the show.
With your first meeting under your belt, you’ll begin to answer some questions and figure out how this group will come together. Of course things will change. You’ll outgrow space and need more speakers and have to figure all kinds of things out. That’s part of the process. Just be flexible, be friendly and have fun.